What to See in Madrid


Once the site of gruesome executions and bull fights, Madrid’s grand central square, Plaza Mayor, is the pretty epicentre of modern life in Madrid. Designed in 1619 by Juan Gómez de Mora, it combines impressive architecture and a vibrant atmosphere, packed with cafes and street performers.

Just to the west is Palacio Real, a 2800 room Italianate baroque colossus that was once home to the royal family. A tour takes you through the palace’s ornate rooms and halls including the exquisite Salón de Gasparini, with its impressive stucco ceiling and wall adorned with embroidered silks.

To the east, Madrid’s three world-class art museums, the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, can be found within walking distance of each other, in what’s known as the Paseo del Arte.

The Museo del Prado is considered one of the world’s best art galleries. Its collection of around 7000 paintings, includes works by Raphael, the royal paintings of Velázquez and Goya’s Black Paintings. The Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, is the main destination for fans of contemporary art, home to Picasso’s Guernica, Spain’s most famous artwork, as well as works by other influential Spanish artists, Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. When it comes to breadth of work Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is hard to match, considered to be one of the most incredible private collections of European art in the world.

While ‘the big 3’ are Madrid’s most popular galleries, there are others of note, including the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando and Museo Lázaro Galdiano.

Out to the east of the main centre is Plaza de Toros Monumental de Las Ventas, the world’s most famous bullring and the Museo Taurino. Providing insight into this very Spanish tradition, you don’t strictly have to be a fan to appreciate the architecture and displays on offer here.

To the north of the centre football fans can visit the Satiago Bernabéu Stadium, home to Real Madrid. Here you can take a stadium tour, or visit the club shop, which as well as stocking all the usual replica items offers great views onto the stadium.

Shoppers will love Madrid’s many boutiques and international stores, but for something different a Sunday morning at El Rastro flea market is a must. In this crowded maze of streets you’ll find junk mixed with treasure, on stalls selling everything from old flamenco records to household electronic items.